Under the Surface is a cross-border, collaborative data project about a crisis unfolding beneath our feet. Europe’s groundwater is disappearing and what remains is becoming increasingly polluted. 

A group of journalists from across Europe worked to collect, analyse and present information about the state of the most important resource in life: water. The warning signs are already here. Europe has an emerging problem that will soon affect us all.

Under the Surface is based on the data every Member State must report to the European Union about the qualitative and quantitative condition of their groundwater. Journalists at the Spanish newsroom Datadista collected this information and created a European database. Media partners in various countries examined the data and researched the impact and cause of the decline and pollution in their own groundwater.

The project was initiated by Arena for Journalism in Europe and Datadista. The idea was born in 2023 at Dataharvest, the European Conference for Investigative Journalism. Inspired by Datadista’s previous investigations into the groundwater in Spain, Arena invited a group of European journalists to its Climate Arena Conference in November, 2023, to share ideas and discuss the feasibility of the project. After deciding upon partners and methods, this new 14-journalist team began its work in January this year.  

This is the first wave of stories that our media partners will publish in the following weeks and months. Stay tuned.

The team

Project initiators

Arena for Journalism in Europe coordinated this project and wrote the European story.

Journalists: Zeynep Sentek, Jelena Prtoric, Sarah Pilz

Design and web: Dominik Heusel, Benedikt Hebeisen

Datadista in Spain collected, analysed and prepared the European data for each national partner, and designed the European map.

Journalists: Ana Tudela, Antonio Delgado

Project partners

Le Monde, France

Journalists: Raphaëlle Aubert, Léa Sanchez

Designers: Léa Girardot, Elsa Delmas

De Standaard, Belgium

Journalists: Ine Renson, Maxie Eckert

Investico, the Netherlands

Journalist: Marieke Rotman

Facta, Italy

Journalists: Elisabetta Tola, Marco Boscolo

Dagbladet Information, Denmark

Journalist: Marie Saehl

Reporters United, Greece

Journalists: Myrto Boutsi, Eurydice Bersi


Journalismfund Europe provided the project with reporting grants for journalists in Spain, Italy and Greece, as well as funds to complete the European map.

Arena for Journalism in Europe’s Climate Network funded the project’s preliminary data work and coordinated the media partners. The Climate Network is supported by European Climate Foundation and Laudes Foundation.

We listened to many songs while working on this project. Some to motivate us, some to mirror the realities we often confront when writing about an uncertain (climate) future. Our playlist is here.

To top